Toning arms and upper body

'Toning up' is one reason many people join a gym or choose to exercise. Whichever part of your body you'd like to work on, you'll boost your fitness levels by increasing exercise. There are three important things to remember, if you want your toning activity to have the right effective on your body shape as a whole:

  • You need to burn calories. Fat doesn't disappear from 'just one area', no matter what your approach to exercise. Neither is energy expended as effectively as many people believe, in 'fat burning zones'. You do need to exercise consistently.
  • You need to tone muscles. Women are unlikely to 'bulk up' from strength training, but having lean muscle instead of fat means you burn more calories at rest - further helping the toning process.
  • Improving your posture will help. If you slouch, hunch your shoulders and shuffle forwards, any improvements in tone could be lost. Relax your shoulders, walk tall and your whole body shape will change for the better.

Strengthening exercises

Dumbbell fly

Why do we do these?

This exercise works your chest and front of your shoulders, the anterior deltoids and pectoral muscles.

  • Lie on the floor with your back and hips flat to the surface and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Hold the dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing inwards, arms almost straight so the dumbbells are directly above your shoulders.
  • Exhale and, keeping your arms almost straight, lower the dumbbells to the sides so they are level with your shoulders.
  • Pause briefly, then inhale and return to the starting position using the same movement.

Dumbbell side raise

Why do we do these?

This exercise uses the muscles across your shoulders and back and to the outside of your shoulders, the trapezius and medial deltoids.

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Hold the dumbbells by your sides, palms facing inwards, with your arms slightly bent.
  • Raise your arms up to your sides so that the dumbbells are level with your shoulders. Keep your upper body and legs still throughout.
  • Pause and then return to the starting position.

Dumbbell upright row

Why do we do these?

This exercise targets your shoulders and upper back, the medial deltoid and trapezius muscles.

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Hold the dumbbells to the front of your thighs, with your elbows pointing outwards and palms facing your thighs.
  • Bend your arms to raise the dumbbells straight upwards towards your shoulders.
  • Once the dumbbells are near your shoulders raise your shoulders to lift the weights further.
  • Pause and then return to the starting position.

Triceps pull-down

Why do we do these?

This exercise targets the triceps - the muscles along the backs of your arms.

  • Stand at a cable push/pull down machine with your shoulders low, upper arms against your sides and holding the bar in an overhand grip with your elbows fully bent.
  • Pull the bar down by straightening your arms and bringing the bar down to your thighs.
  • Pause and smoothly return the bar to the starting position. Hold your upper body still, keep your upper arms close to your sides and your legs still so it is the triceps doing the work.

Don't forget - you don't need professional dumbbells to do these exercises. A 1 kilo bag of sugar or a heavy book will do just as well. Read our other guides, to find out more about toning and strengthening your body.

Back to top